SHEFFIELD — After a first half plagued by dropped passes, missed tackles and a few costly penalties, Sheffield finally caught some big breaks Friday night against Tanner.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, those plays came a little too late against the No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A. Tanner opened with a commanding four-touchdown lead after one half and rolled to a 46-20 victory at Walton R. Wright Stadium.
“It’s hard to say this when you look at the scoreboard, but I’m so proud of the guys for the way they kept competing,” Sheffield head coach David Hufstedler said. “People may call me crazy, but we didn’t really work on Tanner this week. We worked on Sheffield, trying to get us to the standard where we want our players to play at. We took a step toward that. I know it was a loss, but our kids showed some great leadership.”
Sheffield cut into Tanner’s 27-0 halftime lead with Ronald Yarbrough’s 50-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-long from midfield three minutes into the third quarter. Yarbrough caught Tanner’s special teams unit momentarily off guard and took a direct snap around left end for a score.
Later in the third, Aaron Pride caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Hunter Danley, and Brandon Yarbrough bullied his way in from 2 yards out in the third to help Sheffield outscore Tanner 20-19 in the second half.
“Tanner is a great football team, and I think we are, too. We took some steps tonight that are going to help us out in the long run,” Hufstedler said. “Tanner is probably the favorite in the North in 3A, 4A and even 5A. They’re that good. Our kids didn’t back down one bit. They kept taking their best shot and kept coming back at them. We lost the game, but our showed heart and kept playing hard.”
Ultimately, it was Tanner’s ground game that controlled this contest. Fred Rich scored the game’s first three touchdowns and finished with 96 yards, while backfield teammate Hayden Stephens had 199 yards and another three scores to lead the way for an overpowering ground game.
Quarterback Jonathon Fletcher added 111 yards on seven carries for the Rattlers, who totaled 436 rushing yards and improved to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in Class 2A, Region 8.
“Hayden and Fred and all of those guys did a good job of running the football,” Tanner head coach Laron White said. “The line did a great job of blocking, so we can’t forget about them. I’m very proud of this team for the way we were able to run the football tonight.”
Ronald Yarbrough finished with 96 yards on 15 carries for the Bulldogs, and Danley completed seven passes for 136 yards. Sheffield (3-3, 3-2) is at Cherokee next week, while Tanner hosts Hatton.